CHICAGO -- Ian Happ took a seat in the Cubs’ dugout during the workout at Wrigley Field on the eve of Opening Day. The outfielder knew the question was coming, but Happ had little to say when the topic of stalled contract extension talks with the team’s front office inevitably was raised.
“That's just not something that I really want to get into,” Happ said. “Went through the process. And that's about it. There's nothing really to report. No real comment on it.”
Happ is entering the final season of contractual control with the Cubs, putting him on a path to free agency next offseason. It is a similar situation that he saw play out with former teammates Javier Báez, Willson Contreras, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo in recent seasons. Báez, Bryant and Rizzo were traded in their final seasons, while Contreras was allowed to reach free agency.
Not only has Happ learned from watching each of those players go through their respective situations, but the outfielder was floated in trade talks at the Trade Deadline last summer. He wound up staying put and put the finishing touches on his best all-around campaign. He feels that experience has prepared him for the months ahead.
“Going through stuff last year was pretty helpful,” Happ said. “Going through feeling like you're going to get traded and having that experience with a [Trade] Deadline is probably something that helped me just enjoy the day to day and just enjoy being here. Enjoy the fan base. I've said this before, but you play with other guys that end up other places and like, ‘It’s OK.’ And that part of it is like, it's not the end of your career when you're not playing where you came up.
“So, there definitely will be moments here or there, but it's appreciating that and appreciating getting to play with this group. Those are the things that I learned in the last two seasons.”
Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said the ballclub had “really productive and really cordial discussions” with Happ about an extension, but could not find the common ground needed to finish a deal. Hoyer would not close the door on revisiting talks in the future, but knows Happ wants to focus on the season at hand.
“He's an incredible player,” second baseman Nico Hoerner said of Happ. “But his value to our locker room, and to me, just exceeds that tremendously. I'm just incredibly grateful that I've gotten to play with him for so long. And, hopefully, I will for a lot longer. He's just everything that I could ask for in a teammate and friend.”
Looking ahead to next winter, Happ would be one of the better offensive players available on the open market. The All-Star and Gold Glove winner was asked if he is excited about that possibility.
“I'm excited to play baseball with this group of guys,” Happ said.